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How to Make Any Icebox Cake in 5 Steps

By • June 24, 2013 • 68 Comments

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Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: The best summer dessert is also the easiest.

How to Make Icebox Cake

Cookies and cream: you may know it as an ice cream flavor, but the place they shine -- the place they belong -- is in an icebox cake.

At its simplest, an icebox cake is simply cookies and whipped cream, layered, and left to sit and meld together so that the cookies become creamy and the cream becomes cookie-y and you're left with one, singular, so-good-you-can't-stop-talking-about-it dessert.

Icebox cakes come in all shapes and sizes. I go for the classic: Nabisco chocolate wafers, layered with whipped cream, and stacked into a log. You could also build the cake in a circle, or arrange logs next to each other for a more-classic cake shape. You could flavor your whipped cream with peanut butter or coffee or caramel. You could use graham crackers or gingersnaps or thin chocolate chip cookies. When you're making icebox cake, you're in control.

This is the best make-ahead dessert -- since it needs to be made ahead -- and is a saving grace in the dog days of summer. But I make them year-round, because once you start making them, you're hooked. Here's how I make mine.

How To Make Any Icebox Cake in 5 Steps

1. Dump a lot of heavy cream into a bowl, and whip it until it holds a medium-to-stiff peak. If you're measuring, I like to whip 3 cups of cream for each sleeve of cookies. Before whipping, you can fold in flavorings; sometimes, I add a splash of vanilla or a big pinch of confectioner's sugar, but the cream is great as is.

How to Make Icebox Cake

2. Take a cookie, spread a spoonful of whipped cream on top of it, and top it with another cookie. Repeat until you have a little tower. When the tower gets too high, lay it on its side.

How to Make Icebox Cake

3. Build another tower of cookies, lay it on its side, and connect your two cookie-logs. Repeat until the sleeve of wafers is finished, reserving some of your whipped cream. You should have one, big, messy log of cookies and cream.

How to Make Icebox Cake

4. Frost the log with your remaining whipped cream.

How to Make Icebox Cake

5. Cover your cake with foil, and let it rest in the fridge overnight. Before serving, you can garnish it with chocolate shavings or sprinkles -- but I usually just slice it on the bias and dig in.

How to Make Icebox Cake

Still want a recipe? Here are a few for inspiration:

S'mores Pudding Cake
Meyer Lemon Icebox Cake
Spiced Dulce de Leche Banana Icebox Cake 

We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you could make in your sleep, without a recipe.

Photos by James Ransom

Jump to Comments (68)

Tags: not recipes, cake, summer, dessert, cookies, cream, whipped cream, icebox cake, how-to & diy

Comments (68)

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2 months ago MrsK

Kraft Foods web site also uses Oreos and Graham Crakers. I think any of the three choices will be delicious!

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3 months ago Laura415

My Mom would occasionally make this cake and we loved it. It was always frozen and then softened in the fridge during dinner to be ready for desert:) I think if I made this today I would make the cookies myself and add flavors to the cream or even fold in tart drained yogurt, creme fraiche or marscapone cheese-yum.

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3 months ago Ginny

My mother used these chocolate wafers in a yummy desert in the 60's. She crushed the wafers and put half on the bottom of a cake pan. The filling was marshmallows melted in milk and whipped cream and vanilla and the rest of the crushed wafers went on top. I loved it so much! Glad to know Walm, art has the wafers.

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4 months ago Tanner

Most Walmart stores carry the Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers. They run around $4 package.

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4 months ago Rooby Dooby

I remember these from my childhood in the 40s and 50s. Mom made it with ice cream, tho. Yummy !

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4 months ago sophie

I was born on a sticky August day and in my hot hot hometown baking a cake was never an option for my birthday parties. I have had this cake EVERY YEAR for my birthday and would never have anything else. It's incredibly decadent! I always make a raspberry sauce to help cut the richness. I also do a higher cookie to cream ratio because I like the chocolate :) I'm hoping this cake's renewed popularity will make these cookies easier to find! But if you can't find them, smitten kitchen's homemade version is very good (just make sure to use top notch dutch cocoa). Enjoy this very special treat!

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4 months ago Michele

Growing up in Boston in the 60's and 70's, an icebox cake was a graham cracker crust. A layer of chocolate pudding. It was put in the freezer until solid, Another layer oF graham crackers and them, a layer of vanilla pudding. It was put back in the freezer until it was solid.

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4 months ago Embrosia

I was stunned when the instructions did not include freezing the cake. Delighted to see comment of bellablue01because that's how I remember them: layered in a loaf pan and frozen. Every one I've had anywhere since the fifties. To me - Unfrozen seems Unfinished.

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4 months ago Sana Abdulla

A combination of unsweetened cream and gingernut cookies is just heavenly

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4 months ago Elycooks

OMG how many of these did I make as a child? How many more did I eat! Great TBT memories, many thanks.

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4 months ago Mimi Harrison

OREOS!!!! Wow! That's really decadent!

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4 months ago Rebekah

My Mother used to make a version of this with Oreo's in the 80's. So good!

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4 months ago Mimi Harrison

This was the standard treat of the summer in the '50s. Anyone can make it. I frequently make two logs and lie them side my side, or make a spiral of cookies and frost the whole thing. It's so easy and very impressive. And: no baking!

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4 months ago laura

If you can't find the wafers, you can make a chocolate refrigerated cooky (the kind you make into a roll, refrigerate, and then slice before baking). When baked and then cooled, proceed as above. (Refrigerating the assembled cake for a longer time is usually necessary with homemade cookies.) A bit more work, but, actually, in my mind, tastier.

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4 months ago Ntailleart

Can I let this sit in the refrigerator or freezer for 2 nights?

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4 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

I think so -- I'd keep it in the fridge!

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5 months ago Jennifer

We used to make this in an empty ice cube tray - remember the metal ones that were so hard to get ice cubes out of? Perfect for this icebox cake. You don't really need directions for this and it is so perfect to eat one hot night. Make the day before you want it!

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5 months ago Deedledum

There's a recipe at Smitten Kitchen http://smittenkitchen.com... for some really good cookies that are supposed to work well for this. I've only used it so far for ice cream (soso good!) cookies, but icebox cake's on the menu for next weekend. Cheaper than Amazon?

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5 months ago Marge

For the "young woman" of over 80 that lamented not having the large cookies...you can use Tate's cookies, which are much wider in diameter than most. And they come in so many flavors. They're on sale at Mrs. Green's today for $3.99 a bag so I'm off in 2 minutes to get them and some organic whipping cream.

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6 months ago b wood

Publix Super Markets in Florida sells the chocolate wafers. They are found near the ice cream cones, toppings and Marshmellow Fluff, not with the cookies!

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7 months ago Naomi Sokol O'Sullivan

Hi, I'm new to this site, but wanted to pass on some information about the Icebox Cake. I remember it very well from my childhood. It was my favorite dessert ever.
A few years ago, I decided to make it for myself & ordered "Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers" from Amazon.com. I just checked to see if Amazon is still carrying the product & THEY ARE!!!! The boxes are expensive. You can get:
2-9 oz boxes for $24.98, 4-9 oz for $34.98, 12-9 oz for $64.56. The good part is that shipping is free.
boxes for $24.98, 4-9 oz for $34.99

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5 months ago Keisha Adamson LeBlanc

Most Publix Supermarkets carry them. You might even ask the store manager to get them for you. I've done that with several items here at my neighborhood grocery store